Spring is here and that means it’s taco time! Sure you can get a taco in the winter, but nothing beats grabbing a taco on a warm spring day and immediately eating it street-side or even better at a park right after it’s been made. Also, temperatures conducive to drinking ice cold cerverzas with your taco don’t hurt. Two weeks ago, it was one of those beautiful sunny Sundays in New York just meant for lazy city meanderings and taco eating, when David and I came upon Pinche Taqueria in Nolita. I’d read on Serious Eats they had the “first good fish taco” “outside Southern California or Mexico,” so our meanderings momentarily ended as we filed into the tiny shop for some south of the border goodness.
The Taco de Pescado (Fish Taco, $3.95) — a house-made corn tortilla filled with chunks of flaky fried mahi-mahi, cabbage slaw dressed in cilantro mayo, guacamole, chopped onions, and fresh cilantro — was crazy delicious. The fish was fresh, and we could tell it was fried to order because the fish was actually still crunchy underneath all the cabbage slaw and guacamole. The corn tortilla was also really good. Thin with an intense corn flavor, it formed the ideal base. And of course, a squeeze of lime and a generous squirt or two of house-made red and green hot sauce made the perfect taco even more perfect.
We also got two orders of the Taco de Polla Asada (Charbroiled Chicken Taco, $2.95) which, although I thought were decent, seriously paled in comparison to the superior fish tacos. David, on the other hand, had stronger feelings towards the chicken tacos and wanted to throw them in the garbage. Filled with all dark meat (which I prefer), he thought the chicken tacos tasted gamey, and went back in and got two more fish tacos to eat instead. As for the poor chicken castaways, I welcomed them into the bottomless pit that is my stomach. My belly is the Ellis Island for ethnic foods, no food is ever turned away.
The second round of fish tacos were just as good as the first, but I noticed they used a heavier hand with the toppings. The photo on the left was the first fish taco, and the photo on the right is a taco from the second order. It was good nonetheless, but I was surprised by the difference. In any case, even with the extra slaw and guacamole, the fried fish remained crunchy to the last bite.
Later in the day, as we wandered a few blocks uptown, we stumbled upon the Pinche Taqueria on Lafayette. Trust me, it wasn’t planned. It was destiny, and I ended up getting another fish taco, which again, was delicious. And as for the amount of toppings, it was similar to the second round in Nolita.
A week later, you may have thought I had my fill of Pinche Taqueria, but I ended up going back there one day after a sudden taco craving at work. This time, I tried the Taco de Camaron (Shrimp Taco, $3.95) and amazingly, it was as good as the fish tacos a few days before. The shrimp were cooked perfectly; lightly breaded and fried, yet still juicy. Nothing is worse than dry stringy shrimp.
According to their website, Pinche Taqueria doesn’t use canned goods or a microwave, and all the menu items are made fresh daily. After eating the tacos there, I can believe it. And although the tacos are slightly more expensive than those from your average taqueria, when you can actually taste the difference without breaking the bank, it’s worth it, at least in the case of the fish and shrimp tacos.
This weekend, after a week of miserable rain, the sun is rumored to be coming back to New York, bringing temperatures up into the eighties. You know what that means. My cervezas are already chilling in a bucket of ice.
227 Mott Street (betw Prince and Spring St.)
New York, NY 10013
333 Lafayette Street (betw Bleecker & Houston St.)
New York, NY 10012